Cancer, Radiation Therapy, and the Market: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Cancer, Radiation Therapy, and the Market

1st Edition

By Barbara Bridgman Perkins


244 pages | 15 B/W Illus.

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Appraising cancer as a major medical market in the 2010s, Wall Street investors placed their bets on single-technology treatment facilities costing $100-$300 million each. Critics inside medicine called the widely-publicized proton-center boom "crazy medicine and unsustainable public policy." There was no valid evidence, they claimed, that proton beams were more effective than less costly alternatives. But developers expected insurance to cover their centers’ staggeringly high costs and debts. Was speculation like this new to health care?

Cancer, Radiation Therapy, and the Market shows how the radiation therapy specialty in the United States (later called radiation oncology) coevolved with its device industry throughout the twentieth-century. Academic engineers and physicians acquired financing to develop increasingly powerful radiation devices, initiated companies to manufacture the devices competitively, and designed hospital and freestanding procedure units to utilize them. In the process, they incorporated market strategies into medical organization and practice. Although palliative benefits and striking tumor reductions fueled hopes of curing cancer, scientific research all too often found serious patient harm and disappointing beneficial impact on cancer survival. This thoroughly documented and provocative inquiry concludes that public health policy needs to re-evaluate market-driven high-tech medicine and build evidence-based health care systems.


"Do commercials for Gamma Knife, proton therapy and other types of radiosurgery for cancer fill you will both hope and trepidation? If so, you should read Cancer, Radiation Therapy, and the Market. Barbara Bridgman Perkins has written a wise and fastidiously-researched history of radiation oncology that explores the intersection of big business, the zeal to cure cancer and the unending allure of the x-ray."

Barron H. Lerner, Author of The Breast Cancer Wars: Hope, Fear and the Pursuit of a Cure in Twentieth-Century America and

Table of Contents

1. Medical Care as Trade


Radiation Enterprise, 1895 to World War II

2. The Medical Radium Industry

3. The General Electric Company Dominates X-ray

4. Competing Research Universities


Competitive Megavoltage, World War II to the 1970s

5. Megavoltage Competition in Academia and Industry

6. Medicine’s Nuclear Arms Race

7. An Economic Success Story at Stanford

8. Radiation Therapy Politics


Financializing Medicine, 1970s to the 2010s

9. Speculating on Proton Therapy

10. Rationalizing Radiation Therapy, Reforming Health Care

11. Choosing Health Over Wealth


Selected Bibliography


About the Author

Barbara Bridgman Perkins is the author of The Medical Delivery Business: Health Reform, Childbirth, and the Economic Order and articles in medical history and public health policy.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Studies in the History of Science Technology and Medicine aims to stimulate research in the field, concentrating on the twentieth century. It seeks to contribute to our understanding of science, technology and medicine as they are embedded in society, exploring the links between the subjects on the one hand, and the cultural, economic, political and institutional contexts of their genesis and development on the other. Within this framework, and while not favouring any particular methodological approach, the series welcomes studies which examine relations between science, technology, medicine and society in new ways, e.g. the social construction of technologies, large technical systems.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Social History
MEDICAL / History
MEDICAL / Oncology
MEDICAL / Radiology & Nuclear Medicine
SCIENCE / History